Sunday, January 8, 2012

Drinking Water Supply Scheme: Sippighat Panchayat Paves the Way

VOL: 35 | ISSUE: 23 | FRIDAY | 6 JANUARY 2012

Drinking Water Supply Scheme:
Sippighat Panchayat Paves the Way

By Zubair Ahmed

Sippighat Panchayat on the periphery of Port Blair town has been in news for various reasons. In 2007, when a major water crisis loomed over South Andaman and especially Port Blair town, an ambitious water project was announced. The tsunami submerged farmland in Sippighat was planned to be converted into a sweet water lake. Landowners were notified and a compensation package announced. As usual, it also got entangled in legal intricacies.
In November 2007, Lieutenant Governor after visiting the Dhanikhari Dam on the way back stopped at Sippighat village and interacted with them and made promises he could never keep. He promised the villagers alternate land as well as handsome compensation package. Neither the land was acquired for the fresh water lake nor the affected farmers compensated on any grounds.
It is learnt that APWD, the implementing agency had transferred an amount of Rs 15,48,0000 to the Revenue Department to acquire the land. However, it ran into legal issues and the matter is lying somewhere hidden from the public eye.
However, the Gram Panchayat could not lie idle waiting for the Administration to wake up from their slumber and act on their behalf. They instead concentrated on the water supply scheme they had been running since ten years. A perennial nallah, known as Dhobi Nallah, which starts from the Quarry on the hillock owned by Surya Rao, makes way through the private land of one Muniswami, who works in the Revenue Dept and culminates in the well constructed in the Panchayat Office premise by Panchayat Samiti in 2002.
The Panchayat supplies fresh water to about 196 households benefiting more than 800 persons. It supplies about 75000 litres a day through pipelines laid and maintained by the Panchayat. It has also made it a revenue source by collecting Rs 25 from each household for the service.
The nallah needs to desilted so that the water supply is not hindered during summer, when the administration looks east and west for drinking water.
However, the catch is that the Administration, which harps on telling the panchayats to earn revenue and do more on the rural water supply front, has once again become a roadblock for this scheme.
"The perennial nallah, which exists geographically and topographically is unfortunately missing on the revenue map," says Vincent, Pradhan, Sippighat Panchayat. "If the map does not a nallah in it, how can it be desilted?" he asks. Muniswami, who owns the land through which the nallah traverse, using his connections in revenue department has been creating problems for the Panchayat. He has filed a NC FIR against the staff of the Panchayat for trespassing, when they went to desilt the nallah.
The Nallah has been there since long time. However, Revenue department does not recognize it as there exist no nallah in their records. The Panchayat did approach Raj Niwas, Secretariat and the District Administration for a solution, but has drawn blank. In fact there is a 3 x 3 culvert on the road constructed by the British during the colonial regime, connected to the nallah. The facts are wide open to the eyes to see, but the revenue department has turned blind towards it. The Dhobi Nallah was in use since ages by the old inhabitants.
Saraswati Narayan, ex-Pradhan too vouches that the water supply scheme is beneficial to a large number of villagers. However, she disagrees with the Pradhan. "It might be a personal issue between the Pradhan and Muniswami. He was cooperative during my tenure, when I had asked him to surrender land for laying a hume pipe," said Sarawati.
"Such initiatives by Panchayats need whole hearted support," said Chaman Behari, an old inhabitant and a PRI member who is a disillusioned soul. "Even after seven years, we are just getting promises about compensation money, I hope we will get it after our death" he said.
The Pradhan informed that the issue has been also taken up with TKS Nair, Advisor to Prime Minister, who had visited the Islands recently. 

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